By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3 (Out of 4 Stars)
Tammy Faye and her one time husband Jim Bakker once had a popular evangelical television program called The PTL Club and hoped to spread their “philosophy” of Christianity to the world. Well as most of the world knows it, The PTL Club and Jim Bakker would eventually become the subjects of controversy when they became the targets of a criminal investigation regarding their acquisition and use of money, along with allegations that Bakker had raped a woman named Jessica Hahn. This film recounts the life and career of these people and attempts to reveal a more human side to these controversial figures. While the film mostly focuses on the life of Tammy Faye, it also fails to properly develop the character of Jim Bakker who was such an important figure in Tammy’s life.
Jessica Chastain gives a phenomenal turn as Tammy Faye Bakker, a seemingly loving individual who faced much adversity in her childhood, considering that she was a child from divorced parents. While that might not sound too controversial in modern times, during Tammy’s youth, she was considered a God-less pariah within her family’s devout Christian church. This galvanized Tammy to remain loving and unjudgmental to anyone with whom she had contact. She would eventually meet her future husband and first love Jim (Andrew Garfield) in a Christian, evangelical school. After forming a romantic relationship, the two would decide to marry and pursue a life spreading the word of God and Christ through any means they could acquire.
Things would get more complicated as they achieved more success on television, as they began working with televangelist Pat Robertson (Gabriel Olds) and would later gain their own television program. Though Tammy would remain undaunted with her messages of love and acceptance, the politics that come with Christianity, along with the problems created by her husband’s poor decisions, derailed everything that Tammy hoped to achieve and accomplish.
Written by Abe Silvia and directed by Michael Showalter, based on the documentary film of the same name, The Eyes of Tammy Faye is a rather interesting and often bizarre portrayal of these true events. While the movie is one of those pieces that is hard to watch and one from which is hard to look away, the production, direction and writing seem to struggle with recreating these real events without coming across as a strange and unnerving spoof. Still, despite these issues, the two lead actors deliver phenomenal performances despite the weaknesses of the film itself.
Though the writing definitely does Jim Bakker a disservice, Andrew Garfield gives it his all and has some truly impressive moments on screen. Now, let me be clear, I do not in anyway support or endorse anything Bakker has done or been accused of doing, but I feel that the writing fails to develop his character as a real person and often comes across as a caricature. On the other hand, the movie does a mostly exceptional job of developing Tammy Faye’s character and Jessica Chastain gives an awards worthy performance that makes this movie much more watchable than it would’ve been wihout her calliber of acting.
The film also features some solid turns by the supporting cast, but it is Chastain, and the makeup artists that made her look like the real Tammy Faye, that deserve most of the praise for this movie. I moderately recommend this film as a rather peculiar piece of cinema. It is a movie I like overall, but, obviously, with some criticisms. I feel that Chastain’s incredible turn as the titular character that earns this film at least one viewing.